On Tuesday, Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, whose bleak projections of future deaths from COVID-19 influenced governments around the world to institute massive lockdowns, admitted of Sweden, which did not institute harsh lockdowns, “It is interesting that adopting a policy which is short of a full lockdown – they have closed secondary schools and universities and there is a significant amount of social distancing, but it’s not a full lockdown – they have got quite a long way to the same effect.”
Speaking before a House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, the man who half a million Britons could die from Covid-19 spoke of Sweden, whose 436 people per million mortality rate from the coronavirus is significantly lower than the UK’s 575 people per million. The Daily Mail noted, “As well as fewer deaths, Sweden’s GDP actually grew in the first quarter of 2020, suggesting it might avoid the worst of the economic fallout from the crisis
Ferguson admitted, “’There are differences in how science has influenced policies in different countries. I have the greatest respect for scientists there [in Sweden]. They came to a different policy conclusion but based really on quite similar science.” Asked why 4,000 people had died in Sweden instead of the 90,000 that had been forecast, he answered, “I think it’s an interesting question. It’s clear there have been significant social distancing in Sweden. Our best estimate is that that has led to a reduction in the reproduction number to around 1.” He cautioned, “It’s clear that when you look at their mortality, they are not seeing the rate of decline most European countries are seeing.”
He admitted, “But nevertheless it is interesting that adopting a policy which is short of a full lockdown… they’ve gone quite a long way to [achieving] the same effect,” while adding, “’Although there is no evidence of a rapid decline in the same way in other European countries. That is something we’re looking at very closely.” Then he acknowledged, “Lockdown is a very crude policy and what we’d like to do is have a much more targeted approach that does not have the same economic impacts.”
Ferguson added, “I suspect though, under any scenario that levels of transmission and numbers of cases will remain relatively flat between now and September, short of very big policy changes or behavior changes in the community. The real uncertainty then is if there are larger policy changes in September, of course we move into time of year when respiratory viruses tend to transmit slightly better, what will happen then. And that remains very unclear.”
The Imperial College London model headed by Ferguson surmised as many as 2.2 million Americans could have died from the virus if no action were taken. It also suggested 510,000 people would die in the U.K. without a lockdown and 250,000 if mitigating steps were taken.
Business Insider noted, “In 2009, one of Ferguson’s models predicted 65,000 people could die from the Swine Flu outbreak in the UK — the final figure was below 500.” Business Insider also noted, “Michael Thrusfield, a professor of veterinary epidemiology at Edinburgh University, told the paper he had ‘déjà vu’ after reading the Imperial paper, saying Ferguson was responsible for excessive animal culling during the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak. Ferguson warned the government that 150,000 people could die. Six million animals were slaughtered as a precaution, costing the country billions in farming revenue. In the end, 200 people died.”
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